Compound key

Compound key

In database design, a compound key is a key that consists of 2 or more attributes that uniquely identify an entity occurrence. Each attribute that makes up the compound key is a simple key in its own right.

This is often confused with a composite key whereby even though this is also a key that consists of 2 or more attributes that uniquely identify an entity occurrence, at least one attribute that makes up the composite key is not a simple key in its own right.

No restriction is applied to the attributes regarding their (initial) ownership within the data model. This means that any one, none, or all, of the multiple attributes within the compound key can be foreign keys. Indeed, a foreign key may itself be a compound key.

Compound keys almost always originate from attributive or associative entities (tables) within the model, but this is not an absolute.

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